For Ryan Leonards, the summer break has been spent doing what he loves the most - playing baseball.
Leonards, one of 16 UL-Lafayette baseball players to participate in summer leagues across the country, spent the last two months playing for the Anchorage Bucs in the Alaska Baseball League.
“It’s a lot different over here,” said Leonards, who played last summer in Maryland. “All summer it’s been around 74 degrees so you can’t ask for much better than that.
“It’s a lot of fun up here. It’s good competition and definitely one of the best (summer) leagues in the country, for sure.”
Adapting to Alaska’s summer temperatures wasn’t the only thing that Leonards struggled with early on. The Notre Dame High School product struggled at the plate in his first few games and found himself hitting just over .200.
“When I first got here, I was trying to change a few things in my swing a little bit,” said Leonards. “I just didn’t have really good timing. I was just trying a few things to help get my timing back and feel comfortable at the plate again.
“It took me a little bit to get used to it up here, but once I did, I started seeing the ball better and I started hitting it.”
Leonards’ tweaks to his swing paid off in no time and the middle infielder saw his average climb to the .300 mark midway through the season.
Two weeks ago, Leonards was selected to play in the 2012 Alaska Baseball League All-Star game.
The game, played on July 22, concluded the Alaska Baseball League Scout Showcase Weekend and featured all of the league’s six squads competing in seven-inning, non-league games.
Leonards was joined on the All-Star south squad by Buc and Ragin Cajun teammate Chase Compton, who was recently named the league’s player of the year.
“It makes it nice when you come here knowing you’re with someone that you’ve been playing with the last few years,” said Leonards of playing on the same team with Compton. “It makes it a little bit easier on you and you have a little less stress.”
Compton and Leonards led the Bucs in nearly every offensive category over the summer.
Compton was hitting .396 and had 11 doubles, four triples, six home runs and 24 RBI heading into the Bucs’ three-game set with the Peninsula Oilers this weekend. Leonards followed closely behind with an average of .323 to go along with seven doubles, one triple, five home runs and 22 RBI.
“Having Chase here helps a lot,” said Leonards. “He’s seen me hit for the last two years so he knows what I’m trying to do and what my swing is supposed to look like when it’s on.
“So if I’m feeling uncomfortable, I’ll ask him what he sees and what he thinks. And he’ll do the same thing so we try to help each other out as much as we can.”
The Bucs, who were 19-17 and in second place in the league standings heading into this weekend, will wrap up summer league play today when they take on the Oilers at 2 p.m.
From there, Leonards will return home to begin the fall semester at ULL.
Leonards was the Cajuns’ second-leading hitter in 2012 with a .327 average – right behind Compton’s team-best .328 average. He also ranked second in multiple-hit games (16) and played his entire sophomore campaign with a .300-plus average.